A fur stole is an article of clothing worn primarily by women, though some men in recent times have adopted the fashion either in drag or as a statement. Fur stoles are usually smaller than a shawl but larger than a scarf, rectangular in shape, and lined with another fabric, though they may vary widely in size, shape, and design. The major identifying feature of a stole is its intended occasion and wearer, as these garments are typically thought of as high class and formal. A fur stole may be made of any fur from an animal, or an artificial replacement, so long as the appearance of fur is maintained.
Traditionally, a fur stole is worn around the neck with the ends typically hanging loosely in front of the body. Sometimes, a brooch or other pin is used to connect the two sides of the stole in front. Some clothing items marketed as stoles are much shorter or longer than a traditional stole, resembling either a capelet or a scarf. The way in which a stole should be worn is highly dependent on the designer's intentions.
Likewise, the construction of a fur stole can be highly variable. Some are made from flat strips of fur or faux fur sewn together, while others use both the head and tail at either end. Many shorter stoles are made from a single animal's fur, retaining all the major parts of the body including the feet, head, and tail. Lining materials are usually thin, high quality fabrics, such as satin or silk.
The fur of any animal can be used when making a fur stole, and the properties of the fur usually determine the price of the stole. Rabbit fur stoles, for instance, are much less expensive than mink stoles. Other fur animals include foxes, beavers, and dogs. The furs of endangered and rare species are sometimes used, but this is not common both because these furs are expensive and because killing these animals is frowned upon by many modern societies.
In many Western countries, wearing fur has become stigmatized in some parts of the culture. For this reason, there are high-quality faux furs that are used to make "fur" stoles, giving the appearance of fur without harming an animal. In a partly humorous reference to the original source of fur stoles, some faux fur stoles feature plush heads, tails, and feet of animals attached to the ends, imitating a certain style of stole that was once popular. Whether made of faux fur or real fur, stoles still conjure up images of glamor today, and remain a popular article of clothing.